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Kentucky Follows Colorado's Lead in Creating Nonprofit Partner

Even though the fiscal status of the 50 states appears to be stabilizing and even improving in some cases, you can't blame officials for still being skittish about tax bases and their ability to fund what they want with respect to education. As part of an effort to get around this political and policy problem, the Kentucky Board of Education on Aug. 9 told staff to continue developing the "Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky." The 501(c)3 nonprofit group would have its own board of trustees and would be created as an additional funding source for public education "in order to provide the best learning environment in our schools."

"With local, state and federal funding streams all being affected by budget cuts and lower tax revenues, it is imperative that we ensure we are taking advantage of all possible funding sources in order to provide the best learning environment in our schools," Kentucky education department staff wrote in an August memo to the state board discussing the fund.

The CEO and board of trustees for the fund still have to be identified by the state. State board members gave department staff the go-ahead to study the possible creation of the non-profit in April. A spokeswoman for the Kentucky education department, Lisa Gross, said it could be weeks or months before trustees are selected and the group is given final approval to begin its work.

She stressed that the money distributed by the foundation would supplement, not supplant, state and other school funding.

"It's more about innovation programs than it is about run-of-the-mill sorts of things," Gross said, although she added it's unclear exactly what the group will fund.

The board's trustees would likely come from a variety of backgrounds, Gross said: "We don't want people who have no knowledge of education, but then again...you want business people, people who have connections to that kind of work."

This memo also states that the state is looking to the Colorado Legacy Foundation as a potential model for Kentucky's Fund for Transforming Education, since that foundation has a "strategic plan and goals that mirror the concept we are working to establish," Kentucky department staff wrote. You can read the Colorado foundation's 2011 annual report here. The foundation spent just under $3.9 million last year in supporting various integration, health, and wellness efforts, among other programs. In addition, they've convened summits on "education reform" and "educator effectiveness" over the last year. They've provided various case studies and other resources on implementing new evaluation systems and other issues related to implementing Senate Bill 191, which was passed last year and instituted new student-performance-based requirements for teacher evaluations.

Some of the foundation's Integration Districts were in turn recipients of a $9.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2011. The Colorado foundation says it is non-partisan.

In case you're wondering, Florida also has a similar nonprofit organization, called (naturally enough) the Florida Education Foundation, "whose purpose is to lead in education enhancements statewide" as well as "to foster meaningful business involvement in schools" according to its website. It is also the "fiscal agent" for statewide grants from the Gates Foundation and AT&T related to student data and reading assessments, respectively.

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